Home / Arts / Books / The One: The Life and Music of James Brown (Gotham Books), by R.J. Smith
Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown (Gotham Books), by R.J. Smith

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 This biography is called The One, but the title does not refer to its subject, James Brown. Instead, “the one” is a reference to the way Brown orchestrated his music with an unyielding emphasis on the first beat of every measure. The book’s text is as fitting as the title, for in it R.J. Smith focuses on Brown’s music. In fact, Brown himself remains a frustrating enigma. We do learn that he was a difficult boss who was obsessed with visual style as well as sound. Brown’s involvement with regional record labels King and Smash is eye-opening, as his career takes him from being an abused artist to having absolute control over his records. Lurid episodes from the road and trials on the bandstand are not ignored here, but it is the unique music of Soul Brother No. 1 that keeps the beat throughout this fine book.

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